Are You Building a Brand – or Just a Commodity?

Unless your business is a true unicorn, some or even all of the services that you provide can be obtained elsewhere. The truth is, most services and even many products bought and sold every day are commodities, which Investopedia defines this way:

“A commodity is a basic good used in commerce that is interchangeable with other commodities of the same type.”

Though the word is often used in reference to inputs to goods or services, this basic definition is a good “what” you sell might be a common product or service. By definition, it can’t set your brand apart. It’s up to you to make your brand unique and successfully communicate those points of differentiation (sometimes called a unique selling proposition or unique value proposition) to your target audience.

How Low Can You Go?

The problem with selling commodities is that the only way to successfully compete for sales is on price. Volume sellers do this all the time. Think about the types of companies you know that offer price-matching and lowest price guarantees. Any businesses competing with them are then forced to lower their prices to compete.

It’s a race to the bottom.

Some competitors will even be willing to lose money to drive competitors with fewer financial resources out of the race altogether.

Conversely, by building value as inherent to your brand you establish the basis for charging more, not less, for your products and services. Think about the high-end brands you know. They never have to apologize for charging more for the same types of products or services that can be purchased elsewhere.

Even though what they sell is technically interchangeable, something about the value they provide in the process is noticeably better than their competitors. So much so that their clients are willing to pay more to do business with them. So much so that they have a constant stream of positive reviews and referrals.

Elevating Commodities Into a Brand

Building a strong brand around what are otherwise interchangeable services and products is part science, part art. Some of the characteristics of strong brands as defined by Forbes are:

  • Relentlessly audience-focused (which implies a well-defined target audience!)
  • Uniquely distinguishable from competitors (in a way that’s compelling to said target audience)
  • Passionate people are driving the brand
  • The brand creates passionate followers
  • The client experience is consistent across touchpoints and over time
  • The brand maintains a hunger for growth, progress and innovation
  • The brand successfully connects with its audience
  • The brand organization has a strong leadership culture and shared values

You’re probably already elevating your brand so that people choose you over competitors and refer their friends, colleagues and loved ones to your business. Maybe you’ve done this unconsciously up until now, or maybe you’re starting to see holes in your brand’s customer experience where improvements could help you grow to the next level.

3 Ways to Strengthen Your Brand

No matter what stage of brand building you’re at, there’s always a “next level.”  Here are some exercises you can do to continue your growth trajectory.

  1. Write down a list of things that are truly unique about your business. Things clients can not get anywhere else.

NOTE: This is going to be much, much harder than you think. Because if you answer, “great customer service!” you have to try again. Chances are that you have competitors who say the same thing – and even deliver on it. (If everyone says that’s what sets them apart, then, in reality, it sets no one apart!) It’s also not specific enough to be measurable.

If your answer is “experience,” once again – not specific enough. Lots of people have experience. What about your experience, or what unique experience do you have that sets your customer’s experience apart?

If your honest answer is “nothing,” then reach out to colleagues and former clients for help. They may be able to help you identify important points of value that you weren’t even aware of!

  1. Write down your brand story – and start telling it.

What got you into the industry? How have you evolved and changed along the way? What brings you satisfaction on the job? The answers to these types of questions can help you connect with people in such a way that makes them more passionate about your brand and more eager to help support it. Add your brand story to your web page’s “about us” page. Tell it in your email newsletters. Incorporate portions of it into social media posts, and into your “elevator speech” or the introduction you make when you network.

  1. Write down your vision – and pursue it.

You might already have a mission and vision statement. In this case I’m referring to the latter – the vision you have for your business. This should be expressed in terms of what your brand will look like when it’s all “grown up” and how the world will be a better place because your brand exists. Then put it to work. Every business decision you make should bring you one step closer to achieving it.

At this point you might be realizing that “building a strong brand” is harder work than you’d realized. GOOD. If was easy, everyone would do it!


Elizabeth Kraus,

Elizabeth Kraus CoreTitle Guest Blogger, Owner of The Marketing Desks and founder of the Real Estate Marketing Club

Elizabeth Kraus, CoreTitle Guest Blogger, Owner of The Marketing Desks and founder of The Real Estate Marketing Club

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